"He set up the play, four-low for Dwight, the baddest man on the planet, and told him to go get a basket." - Justin Burrell, on the last play for Hardy that ended up in the winning bucket.
I. Recap | II. Defining Win? | III. Keys of the Game Recap | IV. News coverage
The rumble in the garden is back. Fans are screaming at home, the team battling a ranked opponent. The fans are cheering in the Garden, a few recruits in the building, DeJuan Blair and Allan Houston, a loud crowd that's into it, good coaching moves, hard defense, man rebounds. And a filthy crossover by Dwight Hardy, who was left along at the top of the key, left to drive and get a shot at the rim. Which he missed... and Justin Brownlee cleaned up with an offensive rebound.
What a way to play a home opener. The Twitterverse was smoking with St. John's tweets, the national media was watching on ESPN 2. All in all, an excellent win for the record, an excellent win to go 3-0, an excellent win over a top-15 team, and one more step closer to the NCAA Tournament. The city game feels like big time today.
So many nice moments, from the 15-2 run, to the Justin Burrell alley-oop where he grabbed a pass from DJ Kennedy that was a little behind him and dunked it like that happens every day. And Paris Horne with the little plays you need to win - that rebound in the last 2 minutes where he came from the other side of the lane to wrest the ball away from the passive Hoya big men? Clutch. Fierce. Nasty.
Does it get better than this? I think it will. There will be more than just this, below>>
II. Defining Win?
Throughout the game, St. John's maintained control of the pace. They didn't turn the ball over and maintained a deliberate style (a molasses-like 53 possessions in the game), got the shots they needed going to the basket (30 points in the paint), got 19 points off of 14 Hoya turnovers, and got to the line 23 times against a team that had more muscle inside. The staff adjusted after Justin Burrell got into foul trouble, working in Sean Evans for a few possessions and Dwayne Polee II to fill the gap in the post.
The defensive zone was good enough to rush Chris Wright's shots... and to keep Austin Freeman from shooting. Dwight Hardy was crafty enough to reel in the win - the Big East Player of the Week playing like a guy who wants all-League honors by getting to the line though his outside shot wasn't falling.
It's huge. It's buzz. Tomorrow's news will be filled with talk of "resurgence" and "the Garden is back". The Red Storm might even be on the back pages.
And for Steve Lavin, this is the way things SHOULD be. Lavin has higher expectations than just knocking off a ranked opponent at home. While many of us are cheering like St. John's just got somewhere or won something, he's been tamping the highs and lows of the fans, repeatedly stating that the season is a marathon. He's taking the long view.
Where some may say this is some kind of big statement, it's not the defining win. And fans have to realize it's not the end.
Beating Georgetown at home is an awesome win. It will put St. John's in the top-25 conversation. The Red Storm can start thinking about NCAA Tournament and knocking of Notre Dame and Syracuse and of being a top-8 team in the Big East.
But still, not a defining win. Why? No great power has been toppled. The Hoyas have been a little worrisome for their fans, moreso than other top teams in the league. Plus, the Big East season has 18 games and a tournament. This is game #3 of a long gauntlet. Teams will see how St. John's is winning games and work to counteract their strengths.
But it's a real feel-good win, that has the Garden noisy and rocking once more. You can almost feel the city ready to erupt. Recruit G/F Sir'Dominic Pointer was watching. 2012 PG recruit Jevon Thomas was watching. 2011 forward Moe Harkless was watching. JUCO PG Nurideen Lindsey was in the house.
And they all saw what the Garden is supposed to look like. What New York used to be, and will be again. Steve Lavin and his staff aren't stopping here; there are many more stops to go to real sustained success.
III. Keys to the Game
Pregame notes, with original keys to the game and team pluses
Active/ Pressure Defense. Nice defense, forcing them to drive, pass, re-pass, and not find the open looks the Hoyas expected. Forcing some turnovers and disrupting the shooters' rhythm. The Hoyas only assisted on 55% of their shots, lower than the 61.9% average the Hoyas came into the Garden with. One of the top shooting teams in the nation shot an effective field goal percentage of 48.9% against St. John's. A+
Force Miscues. Good job of the team forcing turnovers on 26.4% of the Hoya possessions, while the Red Storm turned the ball over 7.5% on offense. That is not a misprint. A-
Outside In, Inside Out Scoring. Not a lot of perimeter shooting - it wasn't needed - but this is still a bum heel for the Red Storm, who were outshot, percentage-wise, by the Hoyas. But Justin Brownlee (6 assists, an assist rate of an astronomical 40%) passed very well. B+
Austin Freeman. Is it me, or was Freeman just invisible at times? Not taking contested shots he could make, not driving hard to the basket? He was a little passive, maybe sluggish... I think he had more shots available. Still, nicely done by St. John's defense, making it hard for Freeman to get the ball in positions to shoot, defending him so the smart play was a pass. A
Defend the Interior. I only saw one backdoor cut for a score from the Hoyas; the defense made the interior hard to work with. It was difficult for Chris Wright to slash and pass back out, and when he did, both the pass and the receiver were contested. And the Hoya big men found traffic wherever they went; Henry Sims and Julian Vaughn had 6 turnovers between them in 41 combined minutes. A
NY Post/ AP: St. John's 5th straight win is over No. 13 Hoyas
Johnny Jungle: It’s A Hardy Knock Life
Washington Post: Georgetown-St. John's: Red Storm wins in final seconds
You know things are going well when the New York Times comes in to cover the Red Storm!
Though trying to remain prudent, Lavin, a former ESPN analyst and U.C.L.A. coach, had said before Monday’s matchup that his adrenaline might spike when he got off the bus. After all, a ranked Georgetown team as well as the Garden’s lights — and those of national television — awaited. Factor in that Lavin is already putting his stamp on the program in ways beyond wins, and there was reason for excitement throughout the Garden.
Start with as basic an improvement as the team’s locker room. For years, the Red Storm had used one of the Garden’s drab auxiliary locker rooms. On Monday, because Lavin simply asked, the Red Storm was able to walk past those high-school-caliber locker rooms and take up residence in the Knicks’ dressing room.
On game days, the room is now converted into a personal space for the Red Storm.
"We have our own carpet with our own colors and emblem, nameplates that slide on top of the lockers, big leather chairs with the St. John’s logo, photographs of current and former players on the walls to cover the Knicks stuff — that really cherries it out," Lavin said in a telephone interview Sunday. "It would have felt like we were playing on the road or at a neutral site for every game and be a disadvantage for us, as opposed to for other teams."
NY Newsday: St. John's stops Georgetown for 5th straight
Fox Sports/ Goodman Blog: St. John's regains relevancy with upset
Lavin admitted he was concerned about losing the current group early on because the majority of his efforts after taking the job were devoted to assembling a coaching staff, putting together the recruiting class and also fundraising.
"No question I was worried," Lavin said after the victory.
But since Lavin returned to campus in mid-October for practice, nearly all of his energy has been spent with the current players, the ones that were recruited by former Red Storm coach Norm Roberts.
There were relentless text messages from Lavin to each and every one and walks in Central Park at lunch time.
"Because of my experience being fired and having another coach come in," the former UCLA head man said, "I have a unique perspective and understand how challenging it is to be recruited by one coach and then have to play for another. There are no easy answers."
Slam Online: St. John’s Upsets GTown in Thriller at MSG
NY Magazine: It Appears St. John’s Is for Real